President Bush asked the American people to support an increase of military troops in Iraq. The Bush Administration has used the term ‘surge.’ Make no mistake – this is not a surge; it is an escalation.
A surge implies something limited and temporary. An escalation is a long term commitment with no end in sight. We are in a hole in Iraq – and the President says that the way out is to dig deeper. Does that make sense? When you’re in a hole – the solution is to dig deeper?
This is a reckless plan. It is about saving the Bush presidency – not about saving Iraq. Before Congress can act on this plan, there are several questions that need to be answered. I need answers, so do the American people, and so do our troops and their families.
What is the President’s objective in calling for this escalation of troops?
Who is the enemy in Iraq? Does the Bush Administration even know anymore?
What is the Iraqi government doing to help itself? Where is the political solution?
Where are the oil revenues we were told would pay for the war?
When is the Iraqi government going to end corruption in Iraq?
Who is going to disarm the militias and insurgents? And who will keep them disarmed?
Where are the troops coming from for this escalation?
How are we going to pay for it?
U.S. troops can’t do what the Iraqi government won’t do for itself. Iraq needs a functioning government that produces security and services. It needs a government of reconciliation that will function on behalf of the Iraqi people. Iraq needs to get its own security forces up and running. They need to put an end to the sectarian violence. They need an end to corruption in their ministries, they need to get oil production moving, and they need a way to share oil revenue across Iraq.
There are those who say, what about supporting the troops? I absolutely do support the troops! For those troops who are in Iraq, your Congress will not abandon you. The best way to support the troops is NOT to send them on this reckless mission. The best way to support our troops is to bring them home safely and swiftly.
That’s why I voted against this war in the first place. In my speech on the floor I said: We don’t know if we’ll be greeted with flowers or landmines. I said we shouldn’t go to Iraq on our own; we should go with the United Nations, with international legitimacy.
From the beginning, everything Congress and the American people have been told by this administration has proven not to be so. It has either been an outright lie or dangerously incompetent. The President asked Congress to vote for a preemptive war. The President said Iraq had Weapons of Mass Destruction, and implied that America was in immediate danger.
Congress gave the President preemptive authority to go to war. However, the weapons of mass destruction weren’t there. I ask my colleagues: when you heard there weren’t any weapons of mass destruction, weren’t you shocked and awed?
Then the President sent Colin Powell to the United Nations to make the case for war. He sent one of our most esteemed Americans in the world. And the Bush Administration set him up. CIA Director Tenet said the war was a ‘slam dunk.’ There was no slam dunk. And to this day, Colin Powell still cries foul. How can we trust the data or the judgment of an administration that continually gives us this fiasco?
What about President Bush’s good friend – Prime Minister Maliki? Didn’t he stand up with President Bush, who flew half way around the world to meet him in Jordan? Is that the same Maliki who told U.S. troops they couldn’t go after al-Sadr, the Shiite cleric who bankrolls attacks on American soldiers? I don’t have confidence in what we are told by this administration. I don’t have confidence in Prime Minister Maliki to produce a government.
A great American military can not be a substitute for a weak Iraqi government. The stronger we are, the more permission we give Iraq to be weak.
What is the alternative to this escalation? Let’s send in the diplomats before we send in the troops. I believe we should use the Baker-Hamilton report as a starting point. While I don’t embrace all 79 recommendations of the Iraq Study Group, I think they are a good place to begin. The American people want a new direction in Iraq, and the Study Group gives us a bipartisan way forward.
To our outstanding men and women in uniform I say, you’ve got a tough job and we are proud of you. Neither the Congress, nor the American people will ever abandon you. To those of you wondering today if you are heading to Iraq – I believe the best way to support our troops is to say ‘no’ to the President’s reckless, flawed escalation of the war in Iraq.